The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

The Mathematical Universe

Wigner had famously argued (“Symmetries and Reflections”, 1967) that “the enormous usefulness of mathematics in the natural sciences is something bordering on the mysterious”. In particular, symmetry laws provide human minds with a set of “super-laws” (sort of Kant-ian transcendental principles) that allow us to discover the laws of nature. These symmetries (which, per se, simply express the inability to distinguish physical situations) set the world in motion because they eventually express dynamic relationships as well.

The US mathematician Max Tegmark ("Is the Theory of Everything merely the ultimate ensemble theory?", 1996) argues against the Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Theory (that there is no reality without observation).  He prefers to ground his version of Quantum Theory into the assumption that there exists an external reality independent of human minds. The implication is that this reality must be perceivable also by non-human minds. He can only come up with one kind of external reality that would be perceived identically by all kinds of minds: a mathematical structure. Therefore he argues that the ultimate reality of the universe (its external physical structure) is a mathematical structure. We are, in a sense, thinking equations within a complex system of equations. This would also be the simplest explanation of Wigner’s paradox.

No surprise then that the standard model of Quantum Theory is represented by a symmetry: SU(3) × SU(2) × U(1)

In Tegmark’s interpretation the universe neither started nor was created: it simply is (it is a mathematical structure that has dynamic implications).


Meanwhile, a school of "quantum information theory" was revisiting the universe as made of information. The US physicist Seth Lloyd conceived the properties describing a particle as information ("Black Holes, Demons and the Loss of Coherence", 1988). When two particles become entangled, the information that describes each of them individually "declines", whereas the information that describes the pair as a system increases. Particles became increasingly entangled with one another. In parallel, quantum uncertainty evolves through quantum entanglement. A particle gradually loses its quantum identity and becomes part of a quantum collective state. This process continues until a state of equilibrium is reached, that state being one in which the individual particle contains no information and the system contains all the information. Basically, he discovered a universal tendency of systems towards equilibrium thanks to quantum entanglement that inevitably de-personalizes its particles and creates a stronger identity for the whole. In other words, quantum entanglement causes a loss of information, and this loss of information drives a system into equilibrium.

Others, like the German physicist Peter Reimann ("Foundation of Statistical Mechanics under experimentally realistic conditions", 2008) and the British physicist Anthony Short ("Quantum Mechanical Evolution Towards Thermal Equilibrium", 2009), rediscovered the idea and realized that "time's arrow" can be explained by focusing on how information shifts from individuals to ensembles as the quantum waves of the individuals become more and more entangled.

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